No. 9 Oregon has dynamic duo in the Thomases
''Touchdown, Thomas to Thomas'' is becoming a familiar refrain at Autzen Stadium, and the connection between Darron Thomas and De'Anthony Thomas could become even more common for No. 9 Oregon while LaMichael James is nursing an elbow injury.
James, the Pac-12 offensive player of the week, ran for 239 yards in Oregon's 43-15 victory over California last week before going down with a dislocated elbow early in the fourth quarter.
The Ducks don't discuss injuries and all James would say Tuesday is that he has not been ruled out of Oregon's game against No. 18 Arizona State on Saturday night - although it seems unlikely that he'll play.
The Ducks have plenty of options in his absence, but one of the most dynamic to emerge this season is the connection between the two Thomases.
De'Anthony Thomas had a team-high six catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns against the Golden Bears. Darron Thomas also handed off to the youngster for another score.
The Ducks tried some new things with De'Anthony, a well-regarded recruit out of Southern California, because of an already accomplished backfield featuring James and Kenjon Barner.
''We moved him to wideout a little bit because we needed him to touch the ball some more, but now with LaMichael at least temporarily out of the mix, there's a good chance he'll be put into (the running back) position a little bit more,'' running backs coach Gary Campbell said.
De'Anthony does it all. In addition to playing as a receiver and at running back, he also pitches in on special teams. During position meetings, the freshman meets with coach Chip Kelly.
''Wherever I'm put I'll always bring my 100 percent,'' he said.
De'Anthony, known as DAT to separate him from his quarterback, is ranked fifth in the Pac-12 in all-purpose yards with an average of 145.8 per game. He had his breakout earlier this season when he caught a pair of touchdown passes and led the Ducks with 204 all-purpose yards in Oregon's 69-20 victory over Nevada.
Darron Thomas, who has thrown for 15 touchdowns with just two interceptions this season, said he's feeling more comfortable with De'Anthony each game.
''It's just a continuous thing. The guy's been working hard ever since he got here. I try to get the ball in his hands any type of way,'' the junior QB said.
De'Anthony played at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles after he was developed by Snoop Dogg's youth football league. The rapper dubbed his young star ''Black Mamba'' because he was so slippery for defenders.
In James' absence, Oregon will likely start Barner, who sprained his ankle in the season-opening loss to LSU but has rushed for three touchdowns in three games. In addition to De'Anthony, offensive help could also come from freshman Tra Carson, who has rushed for 135 yards on 24 carries, and receiver Josh Huff, who has been hampered by a leg injury but looked back to last season's form against California.
Other than the personnel, Oregon doesn't plan to scheme differently.
''Nothing changes,'' Kelly said.
James appeared to get off to a slow start this season but he has rushed for 751 yards on 65 carries in his last three games. He currently leads the nation with an average of 170.4 rushing yards per game, and also has the most all-purpose yards with 229.6 each game.
He was still listed as the starting running back on the two-deep released for the game against Arizona State. On Tuesday, he was out of his sling but wasn't practicing.
He said he would defer to the doctors to make the ultimate decision.
''I think we'll be fine, that's one reason why I'm not going to push it. I'm not going to rush back onto the field and jeopardize my career,'' James said. ''We have some of the best running backs in the country. Kenjon's obviously one of the best running backs in the Pac-12. De'Anthony, he's phenomenal. And Tra. I'm really confident with those guys to get the job done on Saturday.''